Hundreds of years' worth of rare earths found in Japan
Nikkei -- Apr 11
Japanese researchers have found more than 16 million tons of rare earth deposits, equivalent to a few hundred years of global consumption, under the seabed near Minami-Torishima, about 1,900km southeast of Tokyo.

The research team, led by Yutaro Takaya, an instructor at Waseda University and professor Yasuhiro Kato of the University of Tokyo, published detailed findings on the size of the deposits for the first time on Tuesday in Scientific Reports, a British online scientific journal. They also said they had come up with technology that will allow the resources to be extracted efficiently. The researchers plan to work with companies to recover the rare earths.

Rare earths are used in a variety of high-tech products, including hybrid and electric cars, as well as the magnets for wind turbines and florescent materials for light-emitting diodes.

Japan's heavy reliance on China for rare earths has been a concern for the government. China accounts for about 90% of global production and its dominant position has resulted in price spikes and shortages in the past.

If the country can recover the newly found resources, which lie within in its exclusive economic zone, it could lose is status as a resource-poor country.

The research team collected samples of the rare earth elements in 25 locations on the seabed across a 2,500-square-kilometer area south of Minami-Torishima and analyzed their density.

The analysis found 730 years' worth of global demand for dysprosium, used for the magnets in hybrid cars, and 780 years' worth of yttrium, which is used in lasers.

The recovery method developed by the team takes its cue from calcium phosphate, a composite substance in teeth and bones.

News source: Nikkei
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